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IMPRISONED CITIZENS UNION v. SHAPP

June 7, 1978

IMPRISONED CITIZENS UNION, et al.
v.
MILTON SHAPP, et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LORD, III

 Plaintiffs, twenty-one individual prisoners and an unincorporated association of prisoners of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania incarcerated at six state penitentiaries, brought this class action in 1970. *fn1" Plaintiffs represent a class comprising all persons who are now or will be incarcerated in the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institutions at Graterford, Dallas, Huntingdon, Muncy, Rockview and Pittsburgh. Defendants are elected and appointed officials of the Commonwealth and its prison system. The complaint attacks conditions and policies at each of the prisons as being violative of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1982, 1983, and 1988 as well as the First, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1343.

 Most of the issues raised in the complaint are the subject matter of a consent decree entered into by the parties and approved by me on May 22, 1978. However, two areas of contention were omitted from settlement and instead have been litigated. These complaints involve the constitutionality of conditions in the maximum security cell blocks at four state penitentiaries and of the prohibition in all the institutions against conjugal visits. We visited the four cell blocks in question in August 1974 and again in August 1975. We reserved ruling on these two issues, pending our decision to approve the consent decree.

 We conclude that the conditions in the maximum security areas at Graterford, Dallas and Muncy do not constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. However, the three cells at Huntingdon known as the "Glass Cage" are constitutionally unacceptable and must be closed. We also conclude that the prohibition against sexual visitation at each of the state institutions does not offend the Constitution.

  In determining the constitutionality of prison conditions, federal courts must allow state penal officials broad latitude in determining how to administer and regulate the prison environment in light of recognized penological goals of deterrence, rehabilitation and institutional security. Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union, Inc., 433 U.S. 119, 125-126, 97 S. Ct. 2532, 2538-2539, 53 L. Ed. 2d 629, 638-39 (1977); Pell v. Procunier, 417 U.S. 817, 822-26, 41 L. Ed. 2d 495, 94 S. Ct. 2800 (1974); Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396, 404-05, 40 L. Ed. 2d 224, 94 S. Ct. 1800 (1974). The court cannot dictate to state officials the conditions which the court may feel, as a matter of enlightened and advanced prison theory, should prevail in state penitentiaries. See Knuckles v. Prasse, 302 F. Supp. 1036, 1048 (E.D. Pa. 1969), aff'd, 435 F.2d 1255 (3d Cir. 1970), cert. denied, 403 U.S. 936, 29 L. Ed. 2d 717, 91 S. Ct. 2262 (1971). However, "judicial restraint cannot encompass any failure to take cognizance of valid constitutional claims," Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. at 405, and therefore the court should not hesitate to remedy conditions which amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

 The Eighth Amendment defies precise definition because it "must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101, 2 L. Ed. 2d 630, 78 S. Ct. 590 (1958). In the context of prison conditions there are three criteria of the Eighth Amendment which might be applied. If an inmate can demonstrate that penal conditions violate any one of these tests, the condition must be invalidated.

 The first criterion is the classic standard that penal conditions are proscribed which violate "the dignity of man", Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. at 100; Howell v. Cataldi, 464 F.2d 272, 280 (3d Cir. 1972), that is conditions which are "so barbarous that [they offend] society's evolving sense of decency", Nadeau v. Helgemoe, 561 F.2d 411, 413 (1st Cir. 1977), which involve "physical and mental abuse or corporal punishment of such base, inhumane, and barbaric proportions so as to shock and offend a court's sensibilities," Burns v. Swenson, 430 F.2d 771, 778 (8th Cir. 1970), cert. denied, 404 U.S. 1062, 30 L. Ed. 2d 751, 92 S. Ct. 743 (1972), or which involve "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain," Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103, 50 L. Ed. 2d 251, 97 S. Ct. 285 (1976).

 The second criterion is that punishment which is grossly disproportionate to the offense which precipitated that sanction is violative of the Eighth Amendment. Weems v. United States, 217 U.S. 349, 368, 54 L. Ed. 793, 30 S. Ct. 544 (1910). This test has been applied in challenges to the type of punishment imposed, Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173, 187, 49 L. Ed. 2d 859, 96 S. Ct. 2909 (1976) (death penalty); Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. at 100 (denationalization); and to the duration or conditions of punishment, Downey v. Perini, 518 F.2d 1288, 1290 (6th Cir.), vacated, 423 U.S. 993, 96 S. Ct. 419, 46 L. Ed. 2d 367 (1975); O'Brien v. Moriarty, 489 F.2d 941, 944 (1st Cir. 1974) (duration of solitary confinement); Hart v. Coiner, 483 F.2d 136, 139-43 (4th Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 938, 39 L. Ed. 2d 495, 94 S. Ct. 1454, rehearing denied, 416 U.S. 916, 40 L. Ed. 2d 118, 94 S. Ct. 1624 (1974); LaReau v. MacDougall, 473 F.2d 974, 978 n.6 (2d Cir. 1972), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 878, 94 S. Ct. 49, 38 L. Ed. 2d 123 (1973) (strip cell grossly severe for prison infraction).

 The third criterion of the Eighth Amendment has evolved in more recent decisions and requires that punishment must not go beyond legitimate penal objectives, i.e., the punishment must bear a rational relationship to the accomplishment of penological goals which are of sufficient importance to justify its severity. See Owens-El v. Robinson, 442 F. Supp. 1368, 1384-85 (W.D. Pa. 1978); Inmates, D.C. Jail v. Jackson, 416 F. Supp. 119, 122 (D.D.C. 1976); Padgett v. Stein, 406 F. Supp. 287, 293 (M.D. Pa. 1975); Jordan v. Fitzharris, 257 F. Supp. 674, 679 (N.D.Cal. 1966). The Third Circuit has adopted an analogous position in Howell v. Cataldi, 464 F.2d 272 (3d Cir. 1972), in which the court stated:

 At least five members of the Supreme Court recently have accepted the "penological objectives" criterion. In Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 49 L. Ed. 2d 859, 96 S. Ct. 2909 (1976), Justice Stewart stated in a plurality opinion joined by Justices Powell and Stevens that in order to satisfy the Eighth Amendment "the sanction imposed cannot be so totally without penological justification that it results in the gratuitous infliction of suffering." Id. at 183. Justices Brennan and Marshall similarly have approved the penological objectives standard in Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, 33 L. Ed. 2d 346, 92 S. Ct. 2726 (1972). See 408 U.S. at 279-80 (Brennan, J., concurring); 408 U.S. at 331-33 (Marshall, J., concurring). This test has been applied to a denial of medical treatment in Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. at 103, where the Court said, "denial of medical care may result in pain and suffering which no one suggests would serve any penological purpose."

 I. Solitary Confinement.

 Eighth Amendment challenges to the conditions of solitary confinement frequently have been made. It is clear that such confinement is not per se violative of the Eighth Amendment. United States ex rel. Tyrrell v. Speaker, 471 F.2d 1197, 1202 (3d Cir. 1973). However, confinement in which the isolation cells provided inadequate space, heating, ventilation, lighting or sanitary conditions or where the inmates received inadequate items of personal hygiene, food or clothing, has been declared to be cruel and unusual punishment. See, e.g., LaReau v. MacDougall, 473 F.2d at 978 (dark cell, inadequate sanitary conditions); Wright v. McMann, 387 F.2d 519, 526 (2d Cir. 1967) (inadequate clothing, heating and implements of personal hygiene); Owens-El v. Robinson, 442 F. Supp. at 1384 (inadequate bedding, clothing and toilet articles); Pugh v. Locke, 406 F. Supp. 318, 327 (M.D. Ala. 1976), aff'd, 559 F.2d 283 (5th Cir. 1977) (filth, overcrowding, inadequate food and exercise); Battle v. Anderson, 376 F. Supp. 402, 424 (E.D. Okla. 1974), aff'd, 564 F.2d 388 (10th Cir. 1977) (long-term idleness, inadequate exercise, work or educational programs). Where the challenge is made to the conditions of solitary confinement, rather than to the criteria for assignment to ...


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